I spent part of yesterday meeting with my lawyer again after I received a multi-page letter from the attorney representing the same occasional cable TV figure who has made legal demands against me for the past four years. This time, he is claiming that I am involved in a “civil conspiracy” to defame him. Anyway, it’s a long, involved thing, and that has sadly limited my time for writing today. Therefore, I will share two brief stories that are interesting, but about which there isn’t a lot to say.
Happy New Year! As we start the new year, it’s time to take stock of a few odds and ends left over from the month that just passed by. First, I will share my unalloyed joy that the offensively incompetent Unexplained + Unexplored on the Science Channel hit a series low of just 299,000 viewers on Sunday for its painfully awful effort to find the Fountain of Youth. The show has steadily lost viewers for the majority of its eight weeks, according to the Nielsen ratings, which is typically the kiss of death for a cable show. It lost 10% from its lead-in and barely squeaked by the ratings for mid-afternoon reruns of Dr. Pohl on NatGeo and the middle of the night reruns of Married to Medicine on Bravo. Of course, it’s also a show about history conspiracy theories, and cable networks love to renew those because they are considered “evergreens” that can be rerun, repackaged, and resold around the world for years to come. And it did manage to outdraw original shows on other cable channels in its 10 PM timeslot, including Oxygen’s lineup.
Perhaps more than any year in recent memory, 2019 was the year in which fringe history stopped being fringe and went completely mainstream. This year, we saw pseudohistory and conspiracy theories top the literary bestseller lists, multiply across cable channels like mushrooms on a rotten log, and attract record crowds to traveling carnivals masquerading as pseudohistory “fan” conventions. It perfectly captures the tenor of the times for the post-truth era that the very notions of fact and fiction ceased to have meaning. This was a long, hard year, both for the world and also for me personally. After dealing with family health problems, buying and selling a house (and still not being able to close on selling the old one until early 2020, nearly half a year after the sale), writing two books, and a knot of lawyers for many different developments, I am ready for this unpleasant year to end. Let’s look back in anger:
I wonder how much of the time I spent watching Unexplored + Unexplained is just a complete waste since absolutely no one is watching it. According to the Nielsen ratings, just 348,000 people watched the Science Channel’s broadcast of the show’s search for the Ark of the Covenant on Sunday. Meanwhile, America Unearthed host Scott F. Wolter, whose show airs on Science’s corporate cousin the Travel Channel, appeared on the Earth Ancients podcast to promote his new book, Cryptic Code of the Templar in America. (My review: Part 1, Part 2). Honestly, it was more of the same. All his greatest hits were there—Templars, Holy Bloodline Da Vinci Code conspiracies (cited by name as Da Vinci Code ideas), the Kensington Rune Stone, and the Newport Tower. We’ve talked about all of them before, and there is nothing new to say there. Most of the interview was devoted to the imaginary “mysteries” of the Newport Tower, and the “pagan rituals” he pretends were performed there. Instead, I’d like to talk about some of the less repetitive parts of the interview.
Last week saw the last new episode of Ancient Aliens for 2019. The episode trended down from the previous week, bringing in 897,000 viewers, compared to 925,000 for the Tucker Carlson episode the week before. The numbers suggest that at least some of the previous week’s viewer spike was attributable to Carlson fans tuning in, but the numbers are so small that the greater part is probably due to random fluctuation. In Search Of had 963,000 viewers for its final episode of the season. Meanwhile, the Science Channel conspiracy fringe history series Unexplained + Unexplored trended up to 441,000 viewers for its episode hunting the alleged killer of Meriwether Lewis.
I managed to injure my wrist shoveling heavy, wet snow yesterday, so it is a little difficult for me to type today. As a result, I am going to (try to) be brief. In Ancient Origins this week, eco-apocalyptic thinker Lucy Wyatt tries to make an argument about why the Knights Templar were interested in the ancient city of Harran, the longtime seat of the Sabians, until rural Muslim militias destroyed their community in the 1030s. Wyatt argues that St. Bernard of Clairvaux and the Knights Templar participated in the Second Crusade in 1145 in order to have a pretext for invading Harran to steal the Sabians’ Hermetic and alchemical secrets, since the Sabians were well-known Hermetic philosophers.
(return to Part One)
The pointlessly brief eighth chapter of five pages (half of which is pictures) begins with Wolter stating in a footnote that the History Channel attempted to assuage his disappointment over the cancelation of America Unearthed in 2015 by telling him the show was “too smart” for History Channel viewers. I’m not sure whether to assume this to be a disingenuous attempt at flattery or to believe that History thinks its viewers are idiots. Really, both possibilities are equally probable.
Cryptic Code of the Templars in America: Origins of the Hooked X™ Symbol
Scott F. Wolter | 310 + xxiv pages | North Star Press | 2019 | ISBN: 978-1-68201-101-0 | price varies
When Amazon told me that Scott F. Wolter’s new book would ship in 1 to 3 months and North Star Press, the publisher, couldn’t provide a shipping date, I wasn’t expecting to see it anytime soon. But then it showed up on my doorstep from the publisher this weekend. I can’t tell you how that made me feel. Really, I can’t. Not in print, anyway.
Last night, America Unearthed aired its final episode of its first Travel Channel season, and to promote the broadcast, host Scott Wolter published a conspiratorial blog post with Steve St. Clair, who had appeared in earlier seasons as an expert on the extended Sinclair / St. Clair family of France and Scotland. Wolter’s discussion is full of his usual non-sequiturs and wild speculation, beginning with the temporally unlikely notion that the Knights Templar, who were suppressed in 1307, were still on the run around 1400, when the youngest of the original knights would have been 111: “The final episode is arguably the best in a season of 10 really good shows for it reveals exciting new evidence about the fugitive Templar's (sic) activities in North America circa 1400,” Wolter wrote. Granted, Wolter believes that there was a clandestine continuation of the Knights Templar after 1307, but surely at some point even these fictitious secret agents were no longer “fugitives” from kings and popes a century dead.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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